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People (Still) Wanted: Why Strategy is Still Important in an AI World

The business world is buzzing with excitement over artificial intelligence (AI). From automating mundane tasks to predicting consumer behavior, AI seems to be the magic wand that promises to transform every aspect of business operations. Marketers, in particular, are leveraging AI to hone their strategies and drive impressive results. However, amidst this technological revolution, it's crucial to remember that strategy remains the cornerstone of business success. While AI can process vast amounts of data and offer unprecedented insights, it still requires a human touch to steer it in the right direction.

The AI Buzz in Marketing

Let's start by acknowledging the transformative power of AI in marketing. Here are three compelling examples of how AI is revolutionizing the field:

1. Personalized Customer Experiences

AI allows marketers to create highly personalized customer experiences. By analyzing customer data, AI can predict preferences and deliver tailored content, products, and recommendations. Platforms like Salesforce Einstein and Adobe Sensei are leading the charge in this domain, offering businesses the tools to engage with their customers on a deeply personal level.

2. Enhanced Customer Insights

AI-powered analytics platforms such as Google Analytics 360 and IBM Watson Analytics provide marketers with deep insights into customer behavior. These tools can identify patterns and trends that might go unnoticed by human analysts, enabling marketers to make data-driven decisions with confidence.

3. Automated Campaign Management

AI simplifies campaign management by automating various tasks, from ad placement to performance tracking. Tools like Adext AI and manage and optimize campaigns in real-time, ensuring that marketing efforts are always on point and delivering maximum ROI.

The Role of Strategy in an AI-Driven World

Despite these advancements, the strategic planning process remains uniquely human. Pat Fallon and Fred Senn, in their book "Juicing the Orange," emphasize that creative, bankable ideas stem from identifying the core business problem and rigorously uncovering insights to devise a spectacular solution. This process involves a level of critical thinking and intuition that AI, despite its capabilities, cannot replicate.

Knowing the Right Questions to Ask

One of the key aspects of strategic planning is knowing what questions to ask. AI can analyze data and generate insights, but it takes a strategic mind to frame the right questions and interpret the results. For instance, a marketer must understand the brand's core values and long-term goals to ask AI the right questions that align with the brand's vision.

The Strategic Feed for the AI Engine

Marketing and brand strategy serve as the fuel for the AI engine. A well-defined strategy helps a marketing team utilize AI effectively, getting more work done in less time while maintaining control over the brand's identity and message. AI can assist in executing the strategy, but the direction and vision must come from human strategists.

The Integrative Nature of Strategy

Yuval Atsmon, a senior partner at McKinsey, notes that only 7% of executives currently use AI for strategic and financial planning. He attributes this to the integrative and conceptual nature of strategy, which involves synthesizing various elements and perspectives to form a cohesive plan. While AI can assist in data analysis and operational tasks, the holistic view required for strategic planning is still best handled by humans.

Feeding the AI Beast

Abebe-Bard AL Woldermariam, in his book "Feeding the AI Beast," emphasizes the importance of data in training AI systems. His insights underscore why human oversight is crucial in strategic planning:

  • Understanding AI: AI's potential across industries is vast, but understanding its limitations and applications requires human expertise.
  • Data Management: Proper data management is essential for effective AI training. Strategic decisions about what data to collect and how to use it are critical.
  • Ethical Considerations: AI ethics, including issues like bias and privacy, must be addressed thoughtfully. Responsible AI development requires a strategic approach that balances innovation with ethical considerations.
  • Societal Impact: AI's effects on various sectors, from healthcare to education, necessitate a broader strategic vision that considers long-term societal implications.

Conclusion: The Human Touch in an AI World

AI is undoubtedly transforming the business landscape, offering tools and insights that can drive efficiency and innovation. However, as we navigate this AI-driven world, it's important to remember that strategy remains a distinctly human endeavor. The ability to ask the right questions, interpret data in the context of a broader vision, and integrate various elements into a cohesive plan is something that AI cannot replicate.

As brand managers, chief marketing officers, business executives, and marketing strategists, we must embrace AI as a powerful tool while recognizing the irreplaceable value of human insight and strategic thinking. By combining the strengths of AI with our strategic expertise, we can create a future where technology and human ingenuity work hand in hand to achieve remarkable results.

Are you ready to talk about feeding your AI beast? Email me at to see how we can help.